The Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) “are the territory of China and date back to 1403 during the reign of the Ming Dynasty’s Emperor Yongle,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a rejection of a sovereignty claim outlined by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
At a press conference on Thursday evening called to address issues of disputed territory, Noda said “there is no doubt ” that the islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, “are an integral part of Japan” and he denied that sovereignty over the island chain is being disputed.
Noda was quoted by the Central News Agency (CNA) as saying that the difference between the issue of the Diaoyutais and that of the contested Takeshima Islands, named by South Korea as Dokdo, was that its sovereignty claim over the Senkakus is “undisputed.”
Noda said China had not asserted sovereignty over the Senkaku until the 1970s when it learned that the islands are possibly situated nearby large reserves of oil, the CNA report said.
The Meiji government incorporated the Senkaku Islands into Okinawa Prefecture in 1895 after it had confirmed that the islands were not under the control of the Qing Dynasty, Noda said.
Noda’s statement provided a rebuttal to repeated calls made by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that Japan must first recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty over the islands before they can move toward resolving their disagreement over the territory through peaceful means as spelt out in his East China Sea peace initiative.
In response to Noda, the ministry said his statement was “unacceptable” and reiterated that “our government sticks firmly to its sovereignty contention over the Diaoyutais.”
It is indisputable that the Diaoyutais are an inherent part of territory of the Republic of China and affiliated islands of Taiwan from the perspective of history, geography, geology, international law and traces of ancient settlements, the ministry said.
“In terms of history, the name Diaoyutai first appeared in the Chinese book Voyage with the Tail Wind in 1403, the first year of the Ming Dynasty’s Emperor Yongle, which showed that the islands were discovered, named and used by the Chinese,” the ministry said.
The ministry said there were other descriptions of the island chain in Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty historical documents showing that “the islands were first discovered, named, used, and incorporated into the territory by ancestors of our country.”
Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Diaoyutais were also designated as Chinese territory in maps published by China and other countries, it said.
The ministry countered Noda’s contention as to when and how the islands were incorporated into Japan’s territory.
Official Meiji documents showed that Japan’s territorial ambitions around the Diaoyutai Islands began in 1885 after it knew that the islands had been found and claimed by China, the ministry said.
The ministry said Japan continued to postpone the issue at the time because then-Shanghai-based newspaper, the Shanghai Mercury, reported that Japan was planning to seize the Chinese islands.